Microsoft Shares Rise

GE's NBC will buy Cablevision's Bravo channel; Lockheed Martin slides; plus more of today's stocks in the news

S&P upgraded Microsoft (MSFT ) to buy after a federal judge approved most of the provisions of the antitrust settlement between the software company and the U.S. Justice Department. SoundView keeps its neutral rating. Goldman reiterates its outperform rating.

General Electric's (GE ) NBC network agreed to buy Cablevision's (CVC ) arts-and-entertainment channel Bravo for $1.25 billion in cash and stock. S&P reiterates its hold ranking on Cablevision.

Lockheed Martin (LMT ) is among defense stocks seen lower on sector rotation into technology and financial stocks, and on profit taking.

S&P downgraded Barr Labs (BRL ) to avoid from hold, saying the company is facing tougher competition in the key oral contraceptive market.

Bear Stearns raised its estimate on Pharmaceutical Resources (PRX ) on an expected contribution from its generic Prilosec drug.

Veritas (VTS ) sees first quarter earnings per share below the $0.18 consensus, and $0.80-$0.90 fiscal 2003 earnings per share. SWS Securities cut its estimates, while S&P reiterates its hold ranking.

S&P upgraded Analog Devices (ADI ) to buy from accumulate, and believes the semiconductor industry expansion will pick up in 2003 and 2004.

Continental Airlines (CAL ) says October systemwide mainline jet load factor was 69.4%, 3.2 points above year ago.

Tenet Healthcare (THC ) shares rebounded after the company denied reports of MediCal irregularities. The company says internal experts will review standards to its Redding Medical Center. It hired a medical audit practice to assist in reviewing of doctors.

Walt Disney (DIS ) shares rose after this week's issue of Barron's reported Harris Associate's Henry Berghoef thinks the company's breakup value could be double the current stock price. Deutsche Bank reiterates buy.

Osmonics (OSM ) agreed to be acquired by General Electric. Terms: $17.00 of GE stock or $17.00 cash for each Osmonics share. S&P reiterates hold.

NiSource (NI ) sees $1.65-$1.75 2003 earnings per share. The company cited more shares outstanding, the impact of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission electric rate review settlement, and higher than expected pension and insurance expenses. The company plans to offer 30 million shares.

Vivendi Universal (V ) says it intends to cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York that has opened a preliminary criminal investigation.

eBenX (EBNX ) agreed to be acquired by SHPS Inc. Terms of the deal call for eBenX holders to receive $4.85 cash per share. Separately, the company posted a $0.03 third-quarter loss per share vs. a $0.47 loss on a 52% revenue rise.

Pilgrim's Pride (CHX ) reported that Kenneth B. Moll & Associates has filed the first nationwide class action lawsuit against the company, alleging that its products caused deaths and serious injuries from an outbreak of listeria.

Allegheny Energy (AYE ) announced that it will delay the release of its third quarter earnings, and that it expects to delay filing of its 10-Q form for that quarter.

May Department Stores (MAY ) sees lower than expected $0.08-$0.10 third-quarter earnings per share from operations. The company posted 7.1% lower October same-store sales and 3.8% lower total sales.

Amgen (AMGN ) announced positive results from a study evaluating the effectiveness of Aranesp dosed once every other week. It also said AMG 073 has been shown to reduce parathyroid hormone levels in chronic kidney disease.

According to an article in Barron's, Mark Rowen of Prudential says unless (AMZN ) can become a successful mass merchant, selling a lot of products across many categories, it's hard to justify the stock's current valuation. He has a $10 price target.

Anthem (ATH ) posted $1.05 vs. $0.79 third quarter earnings per share (adjusted) on a 38% revenue rise. The company raised its earnings per share guidance for 2002 from $3.85-$3.95 to $4.05-$4.10 and for 2003 from $4.50-$4.60 to $4.65-$4.75.

CIBC World upgraded Outback Steakhouse (OSI ) to sector perform from sector underperform, citing a favorable sales outlook.

CIBC World upgraded John Hancock Financial (JHF ) to sector perform from sector underperform, citing valuation.

Prudential downgraded Kohl's (KSS ) to hold from buy, citing valuation.

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